Five music and performing-arts projects that are changing lives

3 Jul 2019

It’s festival season! But having fun doesn’t have to cost the earth. In fact, music and the arts can be used to tackle social problems in powerful ways…

Check out these social entrepreneurs using music, dance, drama and trapeze to change lives. They’re bringing communities together, transforming the life-chances of people in need, and promoting healthier lifestyles.

Their founders all took part in our Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme, run in partnership with the School for Social Entrepreneurs and jointly funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. They received a mentor, grant of up to £7,000 and free learning programme, alongside heaps of peer support. Register your interest for 2020.

Heavy Sound CIC: writing rap lyrics to engage disadvantaged young people

As a homeless teenager in Edinburgh, dealing with alcohol and drug problems, music was Jordan Butler’s only refuge. He eventually received housing support, but grew disillusioned when he was told there were no opportunities for him to create music. This sparked the idea to start a business where making music would be more accessible to all. And so Heavy Sound was born.

The social enterprise works with a mix of local authorities across schools, secure homes and youth centres. Its projects encourage participants to use music software and instruments, and to write music, lyrics, rap and poetry. “We typically work with disadvantaged young people and non-performers who find it difficult to participate in anything,” explains Jordan.

Sky High Arts: using trapeze to lift up young lives

Tree Stewart was at art college when she discovered circus. “Instead of doing my degree, I met loads of people doing circus stuff!” recalls Tree, who spent her childhood performing musicals, contemporary dance and physical theatre. She witnessed the psychological and physical benefits of the discipline and wanted to share it with others. She then founded Sky High Arts, which teaches a unique set of classes that helps children and adults improve their confidence, mental health and physical ability.

Singing for Lung Health Colchester: choirs for people with chronic conditions

Mary Anne Barclay studied classical music, and worked for an orchestra before training as a music therapist at the Guildhall School of Music in London. But she explains,  “I wanted to innovate. I wanted to be creative and be a leader.” So when she was offered to lead a 12-week pilot for a community choir, in partnership with the British Lung Foundation, she leapt at it. After its success she wanted to expand, so she founded Singing for Lung Heath Colchester.

The social enterprise helps those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease manage their health through regular singing classes. It is fully funded through sales from concert tickets and singing classes.

Alchemy Arts: acting for the elderly and underrepresented

Adil Mohammed Javed set up Alchemy Arts in 2012. It uses drama, arts and media to help disadvantaged, elderly and misrepresented communities empower and express themselves. “I wanted to use innovation and imagination as an instrument for social change, to support people with different needs,” explains Adil.

The Alchemy Arts founder took part in our Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Start Up Programme first, to get his social enterprise off the ground. But after a few years, they were still heavily reliant on grants – so Adil joined the Scale Up level of the programme, to help his project become more sustainable. “Scale Up gave me a support structure, a springboard to bounce ideas off, and a valuable network,” explains Adil.

Adil Mohammed Javed, Alchemy Arts

Dance Lyf CIC: busting moves, creating employment skills

“As a young person and growing up in deprived area, I saw a lack of togetherness in my community,” recalls Belise Niringiyimana. She wanted to create a project that would bring people together while also promoting health and well-being. “What better way to do that than through dance!”

Dance Lyf provides dance and fitness instructor training to young people who are not in education, employment or training. This helps them with vital life and employment skills. Belise’s social enterprise also encourages healthy lifestyles through dance and fitness classes for both the young and the elderly, working with schools, nursing homes, local authorities and other organisations.

 By SSE’s communications coordinator, Henna Patel. Follow her on twitter, @hennadp

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